Will Unique Property Registration numbers revolutionise the industry?

With major industry figures such as Savills, Knight Frank and RICS backing the government’s Unique Property Registration Number (UPRN) system, is it only a matter of time before the scheme is adopted across the property industry as a whole?

On 12 January 2021, a group of leading industry figures wrote an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The letter advocated the market-wide adoption of the UPRN scheme.

What is a Unique Property Registration Number?

The ‘number plate’ system, as it is known, allocates a unique, 12-digit number to every address in the UK. This helps identify and collate data such as surveys, searches and EPCs.

Already widely used by local authorities, the Unique Property Registration Number scheme could speed up conveyancing times and better protect the interests of buyers, sellers and tenants.

But should the scheme be adopted across the board? And, more crucially, should it become mandatory to ensure widespread adoption and maximum effectiveness?

We spoke to several key players to get a sense of the possible impact of the UPRN system on the property industry.

How could UPRNs help the lettings industry?

“The adoption of UPRNs could revolutionise the property market,’ said Theresa Wallace, Chair of the Lettings Industry Council and Savills’ Head of Lettings Customer Services.

“There are so many benefits including the speeding up of pre-sale information sharing and better protection for tenants.

“At the moment, there is so much information, all in different systems, with no easy way of connecting it.

“UPRNs could easily bring information together such as gas safety certification, electrical installation reports and deposit scheme records.”

Helping the industry spot rogue landlords

UPRNs could make rogue landlords easier to weed out, thanks to more efficient information gathering. And, even HMRC could benefit, as a result of increased awareness around tax evasion and fraud.

“If a landlord doesn’t have a gas safety certificate, chances are they’re not paying tax on their rental income either,” says Theresa. “UPRNs could lead to a much more transparent, streamlined data sharing system.

“We have significant industry support and we’d like to see the government mandate the UPRN system as they have done in the public sector. It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. I see it as the missing piece of the puzzle that will bring everything together.”

Speedier conveyancing

According to Tim Main (MRICS) from Pip Ltd, the creators of the Pip Vault data storage system, the use of UPRNs could enable a huge leap forwards in terms of digital data collection.

As a result, the sharing of relevant data such as surveys, searches and safety certification could become much more efficient. This could lead to reduced conveyancing periods.

“The UPRN system could help identify the property interest so that information could flow more easily from freeholder to leaseholder, for example,” says Tim, who is also a co-founder of the Residential Logbook Association.

Unique Property Registration numbers could help buyers, sellers and landlords alike

Could UPRNs help speed up conveyancing?

“This could allow a cascade of information to all relevant parties and help speed up conveyancing times. Conveyancing in the UK takes on average 22 to 23 weeks.

“When I started selling houses 20 years ago, it had to take 28 days otherwise the property would go back on the market. There is a huge benefit to be gained here.”

Helping to reduce the stress of moving

Louis Harding, Head of London Residential Agency at Strutt & Parker agrees. “It’s incredible to think that conveyancing actually takes longer now than it did 20 years, despite the enormous advances we’ve seen in terms of digital information, virtual tours, etc.

“The UPRN system would speed up conveyancing and reduce stress for all parties – buyers, sellers and agents alike. I think it’s good news for the industry and actually good news for society, too.

“It’s well documented that the thought of moving is regarded as one of the most stressful things you can do in your life,” continues Louis. “If we can reduce the stress connected with property transactions that can only be a good thing.”

Could UPRNs become a legal requirement?

The consensus seems to be that the adoption of UPRNs would be beneficial across the entire property industry. But should the system become mandatory to ensure widespread use to maximise the benefits?

“Well, I’m struggling to see any reason for it not to become mandatory, to be honest,” Louis added.

Are there any downsides to the UPRN system?

“I can’t see any downsides to the UPRN system, other than possible challenges during the adoption process. But that applies to anything new. It’s just progress.

“Our industry has gone through a lot of change and everybody needs to be able to adapt – especially when the benefits are so clear.

“UPRNs could become a gateway to a one-stop digital shop for everything you need to know about a particular property. This would speed up conveyancing and make everything more efficient. And who’s not going to be happy about that?”

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